Back pain is one of the most common health issues in the United States, with up to 80 percent of the population suffering the condition at some point in one’s life.
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“But this exceedingly high number is just the beginning of the problem, because multiple studies indicate that roughly 70 percent of back surgeries fail,” says Jesse Cannone, a back-pain expert and author of “The 7-Day Back Pain Cure.” “It’s so common that there’s a name for it – failed back surgery syndrome, or FBSS.”
One recent study monitored 1,450 patients in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation database; half of those on disability endured back surgery, half did not. After two years, only 26 percent of those who had surgery returned to work. Additionally, 41 percent of those who had surgery saw a drastic increase in painkiller use.
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“The success rate for the most common treatments is pathetically low, so it’s no surprise people often struggle years or decades with back pain, with few ever finding lasting relief,” Cannone says. “The majority of back surgeries are not only ineffective, but most could have been completely avoided.”
He reviews seven common mistakes made by back-pain sufferers:
• Continuing a treatment that doesn’t work: One of Cannone’s clients experienced 70 treatments with a chiropractor, resulting in no relief. “Here’s a general rule to follow,” he says. “If you see no improvement after going through a three-month period of treatment, consider making a change.”
• Failing to solve the problem the first time: Take pain seriously the first time. Cannone’s own mother suffered a significant bout of back pain, which subsided after a few days. But two years later it came back, and the second time was so debilitating she couldn’t work. “If she had taken the first bout more seriously, she probably would have prevented the second, more debilitating bout.”
• Thinking you’re too healthy or fit to have back pain: Staying in shape is always a good idea, but it does not make you invulnerable. People who train their body can be more prone to back pain because they often push their body’s limits, says Cannone, who has been a personal fitness trainer since 1998.
• Treating only the symptoms: Cortisone shots, anti-inflammatory drugs, ultrasound and electrical stimulation only address pain symptoms. “You may get rid of the pain, but the problem causing the pain will persist if not addressed,” he says. “If you want lasting relief, you must address the underlying causes, and it’s never just one.”
• Not understanding that back pain is a process: In most cases, back pain, neck pain and sciatica take weeks, months or even years to develop; the problem may exist for quite a while before the sufferer notices it, except for rare one-time trauma incidents like automobile accidents. Most people sit for hours at a time, yet the body was developed for diverse movements throughout the day. “Think of a car with steering out of alignment; eventually, tires will wear down unevenly and there will be a blow out,” Cannone says. “The same is true with your body.” Just as the damage was a process, recovery is the same and can be time-intensive.
• Believing there are no more options left: Not only does back pain hurt and prove physically debilitating; it also tries the morale and determination of the patient. A sufferer can run the gamut of treatments. But, often, it takes a cocktail of treatments that address all of the underlying causes. “Remember, you can’t really treat the root of pain until you know what’s causing it,” Cannone says. “In so many cases, this is precisely the problem.”
• Failing to take control: Doctors and other specialists are ultimately limited to what they know and what they’re used to. If you have a debilitating back problem, it should be among your top priorities to learn all you can about it, and how to fix it. Get a second, third and fourth opinion if treatment isn’t working; try out alternative therapies, and consider a healthy mix of treatment. Most importantly, take control; it’s your back, your body and only you can heal it, with help from others.
“I may be critical of how most handle back pain, but that’s because I’ve proven to patients that there are flaws in the traditional approaches as well as more effective alternatives,” Cannone says. “I also feel that I’m offering a hopeful message because of my high success rate in helping to cure the back pain from my clients.”